HOOSICK, N.Y. -- For the first time since 1934-1935, the Hoosick Falls Central School boys basketball team completed a perfect Wasaren League campaign with a 49-47 victory over Hoosic Valley on Friday night.
"[Hoosic Valley] is a great team with great players, but it feels great to go undefeated. This feels great, it just feels great," Austin Pitt said.
Led by Andrew Hoag with 17 points, the Panthers were able to do just enough to squeak out a close victory over their Wasaren League rivals.
With the game tied at 42-42 late in the fourth, Will Bradley (5 points) found a lane to the basket band sent his team up two points, and Valley never recovered.
Mark Hackett (6 points) was able to put the Panthers up four two plays later with an offensive putback, and Hoag would make a free throw the next time down the court to put Hoosick up 47-42.
Valley would pull two points back on the next possession when Mike Pierre (game-high 18 points) was able to get a layup, and Valley got the ball back with under 30 seconds to play when Hoag missed the first attempt on a 1-and-1.
JT Sawyer got the first chance for Valley to pull even, but his shot was off and Hoag came up with the rebound. But before Hoag could secure the ball and look for an outlet, the ball was forced out of his hands and off his leg to give Valley another shot.
Pierre got the look the second time, but his shot was also off and Bradley was able to pull down the rebound and find Hoag to clear the danger. Hoag drew a foul, stepped up to the line and buried both shots to make it 49-44.
"I was just thinking about having the perfect Wasaren season, we haven't done it in a while. I told my coach I would get it done and I came through in the clutch, I guess," Hoag said.
John Rooney (game-high 18 points) was able to hit a three at the buzzer, but it was too late for the Indians to be able to get the ball back.
The win gave Hoosick Falls the outright Wasaren League crown.
"This feels awesome, last year they beat us in two tough games, it just feels great to get the win and make the community proud," Hoag said.
"This is exactly how I was picturing this game was going to be, knock down and dragged out," said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac. "Hoosic Valley is a great team, great competitors and this is a great rivalry. That is a heck of a team and it was a battle."
The game opened with both teams jockeying for position. MAU would score first on a putback by Pitt, and would go up 7-5 on a free throw from Bradley. Valley came back and went up 8-7 on a bucket by Pierre, only for Hackett to hit a layup off a Bradley pass to make it 9-8.
The lead changes were not done, though, as a 3-pointer by Pierre gave the Indians a 11-9 lead and the team would take a 13-11 lead going into the second.
In the second, Hoosick Falls took the lead back on a corner trey from Noah Chani (6 points) on a pass from Hoag, and Hoag converted on a drive to the lane to put the team up 16-13. The teams continued to exchange baskets, with a converted and-one by Rooney knotting the game up at 18-18, but Pitt hit a bucket under the basket to put the Panthers up 20-18, and the team went into halftime up 24-22 when Chani hit a layup right before the buzzer.
Rooney scored all nine points for Hoosic Valley in the second.
"You have to gamble a little bit," Lilac said of the team's defensive emphasis. "We were trying to focus on those two great scorers [Rooney and Pierre]. I thought we played great D against them and they still had 18."
In the first half, the teams combined for only three 3-pointers, something that Lilac saw coming with how the game was flowing.
"With so much energy being expended, guys were so tired that threes weren't going down and it became a football game out there," Lilac said. "We had to really put it on the floor and take it to the hoop."
Pitt noted that when the team noticed shots weren't falling, it became about matchups.
"We looked at the matchups that we could take," Pitt said. "I had some good matchups sometimes so I just took it to the hole and got it."
After the break, neither team could score on the first seven possessions of the third, but that quickly gave way as the teams combined to score on nine of the next 10 possessions. Valley would score last, with Pierre tipping the ball back in to give Valley a 32-31 lead. Falls would take the lead back on a baseline drive by Bradley, and a teardrop in the lane by Hoag put the Panthers up 35-32. But Valley responded, and a Pierre bucket off of a steal made it a 36-36 game going into the fourth.
The final frame would start with another exchange of baskets, with Pitt starting the scoring on a scoop layup and Sawyer finishing the stretch with a baseline basket to make it 40-40.
The teams would remain stuck at 40-40 until Hoag scored on a drive to make it 42-40, setting up the hectic finish that gave Hoosick Falls the win.
Hoag finished with six rebounds, three steals and two assists for Hoosick Falls, while Pitt added 15 points, four rebounds and two steals. Pierre had nine rebounds, four assists and four steals for Hoosic Valley while Rooney had eight boards, two blocks and two steals.
And while Hoosic Valley's duo gave the team 36 points, the rest of the Indians' team only mustered 11.
"Pierre and Rooney are always going to get theirs, they are great players and put in the time," Pitt said. "But the other three, four guys that didn't guard them, they played great and held [the rest] to single digits and that is what we needed to do to get the win."
The game was a sellout at Hoosick Falls, something that athletic director Tom Husser said he had never seen in his years at the school. By halftime of the JV game the stands were full, leaving spectators to standing-room only before the front doors to the school were locked ahead of the varsity tip.
Hoosick Falls is now 16-1 overall, and finishes with a 14-0 league records. The team finishes its regular season next Tuesday when the Panthers hosts MAU to try and redeem its only loss of the season. Hoosic Valley falls to 15-3 and finishes its league schedule with a 12-2 record.